It took far too long to get to the Bay of Islands. In two senses. The first and most obvious was the horrific traffic we hit, all the way from Auckland. For the susequent 3 hours I doubt we went over 15kph. We had timed our trip to coinside (accidently) with the opening of the brand spanking new HW1 toll road connecting Auckland with the Northland.... and what a mistake it was. Also, the New Year had arrived so suddenly, highlighting how quickly time was passing. Within 2 months time we would be heading south for a winter on the South Island..... time was now of the essence - there a lot of North Island left to see!
We took the ooportunity for the road trip during a week whilst we had the honour of having two good friends visit from the Uk.
View form The Bounty Inn
Now thats a hell of a long way to come for a visit - me and Alex had to pull something out the bag here - this trip had to be 'the bollox'. So that was how it came about.... with the perfect January weather it seemed mad to not head north to The Bay of Islands - which we already knew was quite a sight. Dolphins, perfect bays, watersports and a dam good party scene. It was fool proof. Which was lucky, considering the ditzy mix of girls in the car... and one poor guy (who loved it, despite his protests!).
The traffic jam did at least give us a good opportunity to get a motel booked, which considering the time of year, was very easy to arrange and finally, about 6 hours after leaving Thames we arrived in Pahia and checked into The Bounty Inn.
35 Degrees South.... pre cockroach incident
We had a 2 bedroom chalet style apartment, complete with spacious balcony with views across the bay. It was perfect. No time was spent on sight seeing that night; we had encountered so much simply on the drive up - north through the Rodney District and in particular a stop off in Whangarei
, where we spent an hour hypnotised by the incredible Whangarei Falls. Now was the time for Steinlarger and celebrations....in whichever order prefered. So, after Paul sat around for several hours whilst us three girls got our war paint on we headed out for dinner. The first place we stumbled across was so ridiculously quaint we couldnt help but wonder in - the smells of freshly caught sea food was simply too much to bare.
Luckily for us that place was '35 Degrees South' - arguabley the best resturant in town. Its set right on the water front, on a wooden pier, designed with lots of glass windows and balconies to really make the most of the views. There was even an enourmous 60,000 litre aquarium in the centre of the building - all 4 of us were very happy, hungary bunnies!
The meal was delicious; there was a mix of seafood chowder, green lipped NZ muscules and prawn pasta, mixed with a few bottles of white wine - the evening was panning out quite nicely! What topped off the evening was the cockroach that fell from the ceiling directly onto Alex's plate -luckily at the end of the meal! Us being us thought this was hilarious (perhaps the wine had truely kicked in by this point) and soon we had made enough noise for the entire resturant to turn and look at the chaos unfolding at our table.
The Essex crew take Pahia!
My visiting friend, Helen, being the slightly unhinged love that she is decided then to take it upon herself run after the little bliter with her shoe in hand, until she finally catch up with it and smashed its brains in on the floor of the resturant...... in front of everybody. It was a moment of sheer amusement - we had pretended so well up until that point, to be of an almost posh Britsh breed - what with the white wine, muscles and general good behaviour. Now our hysterical laughing gained us new kudos, and lets just say the staff seemed pretty pleased to see us leave shortly after. Despite the fact that techniquely
, Helen had done them a favour in destroying the beast!
Later that night we ended up in a bar called The Salty. Again, it was perfect - just what we needed for the night.
Post skinny dipping! Note Pauls wet crutch! lol
None of this posh malarkly (as if Kiwis even know what posh is!) just a simple bar, with a huge outdoor area, generous dance floor and shockingly cheap shots. The atmosphere in these kind of bars always blow me away - its nothing like what you would find at home in Essex. I think perhaps everyone is more relaxes, more laid back - perhaps its because half there people in there were lucky enough to be living in Pahia, and the other half were lucky enough to be on holiday there. Everyone dances like nobody is watching, inhebitions are lost at the door and friends and beer seem to come easily. The night ended in what now, looking back, seems like such a cliche..... we befriended a group of Brazilians who, after closing time, migrated to the beach across the road.
Russell.... picture perfect
Suddenly we were all sat in a giant circle under the night sky, listening to a young guy singing with his guitar in Portuguese... with the others slowly joining in. It was a real happy moment - one I think all of us wanted to remember. I cant remember whose idea it was, but the next thing I remember is running after Paul and Alex to the water - stripping off entirely - and bounding into the warm water. My first ever skinny dipping experience! It was a bloody fantastic evening :o)
With slightly sore heads, we set off the next day towards to piers where the Ferry's to Russell leave from, and after buying a cheap return ticket we boarded the next boat and floated across the bay to the nearby town.
On the ferry at Russell
You can almost see Russel from Pahia, and as the crow flies, its incredibley close. But to drive it is a trek - plus any excuse to get on a boat is good by me. Russell is well worth a look; smaller and quainter than Pahia - less tourists, less pissheads, but plenty of cafes and small boutiques to entertain you for an afternoon. Luckily for us, the weather was still glorious and we spent the afternoon at The Duke of Malborough Hotel, right on the sea front, basking with cold beer.
The following morning we got back into 'Elise' and headed back down south. We had a few brief stops along the way again - my favourite being 'Snells Beach' (which is my surname!). Snell's beach is super cute - a tiny town just outside Warksworth - but the bay is so calm and tranquil, its another stop well worth a cheese and mince pie stop! Happy Days!